Mommy Perfect offers some key suggestions on how to keep in touch with your teenager.
We all know the years go by very quickly; one day you have a toddler, the next they are a teenager. Typically when children become teens they develop an urge for independence, they pull away from their parents, they want to experience life and all it has to offer on their own terms. I know that I was a difficult teen — really put my mom through it. I was a child of divorce and she had to work a full-time job so wasn’t able to be around much, which left me largely on my own through those teen years.
I wanted my daughter to have a different experience, one where I was there for her and present in her everyday life. I’m fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom, but even with always being around it is hard to maintain an open and communicative relationship. Plenty of things can get awkward and uncomfortable for her to talk about. I know she has questions about life and the changes she may be experiencing, but she won’t always come and talk to me about it. It’s embarrassing and what not. I remember the feeling, and I ended up having to figure most of it out on my own. Mistakes were made. I decided that I had to come up with creative ways to keep the communication open and happening. Here are a couple of things that are working so far.
Shared Journal. This is a journal that we both can use. I write whatever I want and leave it in her room, then she can write whatever she wants and gives it back. We can cover a lot of topics that way and there is no pressure or awkwardness.
Shared Interests. We have found a few passions, hobbies, and activities that we both like. We may not get to do them together all the time, but we can have fun talking about it anytime and it makes her want to spend time together to actually go do those things. At a time in her life where her life “sucks” because she isn’t with her friends all weekend, it can be pretty special to enjoy an activity with her.
Be Present. Helicopter parenting has unfortunately become the de facto standard in the last 20 years or so, something I’ve written about before, and I urge parents to avoid this parenting style. With that said, you can be present without hovering. Give them leash, but they know you’re there and available. If her friends want to have a group outing to the mall or some event that requires a chaperon, I volunteer. I can be around without hovering, and often she and her friends end up hanging around me anyways. I’m present, I’m safe, but not controlling or nosy.
Don’t Force It. You will have to make an effort, but don’t force it. Kids know if you’re being a “try hard” and just faking it. It ought to be natural and comfortable for both of you. Also remember that you’re not their friend, you’re their parent, and these are efforts to retain a parenting relationship with a young adult, not to force yourself into the role of their best friend. Its important to remember that distinction.
It may seem like the effort of these little things aren’t worth it sometimes, but trust me they are. Teenagers may not show their appreciation for anything you do, but they do feel it. They need to know someone is there for them, willing to listen or just be present. Consistency with rules and boundaries, keeping your promises, not betraying their trust, are some of the most important things you can do to keep a good relationship with your child as they grow up.